Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20th - 1st Christmas is coming in Samoa

Manuia Kerisimasi!!
This week was really good. We have three baptisms set for this Saturday which will be Christmas back home. #whitechristmas!  We're also doing a wedding Christmas morning so two other people we are teaching can get baptized next week! Definitely a different Christmas than any other, but it'll probably be the best one so far.
We're gonna be on Samoan TV! On Christmas Eve here and the 23rd back home, were singing in front of the parliament building. I think we start at 6:30pm which is 10:30pm in America. Its called TV3. I have no idea how to find it but if you want to watch some native Samoans dance and listen to us sing, you should tune in. Were also painting a school which will be the first service project I've been able to do since I've been here.  Sometimes it's hard for people to let us help.  It should be a fun day. 
We had a lot of good visits this week. One that is gonna stick with me for a while was with So'o (So'o in Samoan is disciple). She is the elderly woman I mentioned last week.  She couldn't be more prepared for us to teach her. We visited her on Tuesday this week but her neighbors were blasting music, so we thought it would be best to set another date. But before we left her daughter, whose one-year-old son just passed away, she asked us such an awesome question. She asked if she'll have a chance to raise her son after this life. We were able to answer her question with a scripture in D&C Section 130 Verse 2.
2 And that same sociality‍ which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.
She will have that opportunity to raise her son in the next life only it'll be coupled with eternal glory. I love knowing that families are eternal.  I'm so grateful for this gospel and the answers it gives us. Being able to turn to the scriptures and find answers to our questions is so comforting.
We went back later this week and taught So'o about the plan of salvation and temple work. She understood it all and didn't even have any questions. She is so ready to learn. We have her baptism set for the 2nd of January.
I love it here.  It's the best! The Christmas season is celebrated a lot differently than in America but I only get two here, so I'm enjoying every minute. I've seen some fales with lights and it makes my day. I also love hearing all the Christmas music blasting throughout the village.
Time really does fly!
Elder Sterner
Can you believe I get to see this every day?!

A coconut plantation.

Sale'imoa December 13th - posted on the 20th

Talofa Lava!

This cold weather is really getting to me (ha, ha).  I love the Christmas music here. It's really fun. They just get songs from America and put rasta type beats behind it and it's pretty funny.  I love the holiday spirit!

On Tuesday all the zone leaders and district leaders had a meeting at the mission home so I went on an exchange (where we go out with other missionaries). I ended up going with my companion from the MTC (Missionary Training Center) and another elder who has only been out 6 weeks longer than me. We worked in their area. We visited with members and asked them to help fellowship those who are learning about the church. It was a really good day. I gained a lot of confidence and realized that if I had to teach, I could get the message across as long as I have the Spirit with me. I also realized how little of an impact we have with the conversion of others as they're learning about the gospel. Their conversion comes through their own actions and all we have to do is teach simply and invite - which I can kinda do.

On Thursday, we went over to Sale'imoa 1st ward. We visited with So'o. She is an elderly woman. She stopped us on the street. She said she has wanted to get baptized her whole life, but couldn't because of her husband. Her husband passed away a couple months before we met her and she said now she can finally get baptized. Our first lesson with her we invited her to be baptized and she accepted. The 1st ward church services start at 7:30 in the morning and she lives kind of far away and she still made it to church.

Sale'imoa is about a 30 minute bike ride from our house. We had just finished a visit around 8:30pm and it was pitch black outside. Luckily, I had a tiny flashlight in my bag that seemed to get the job done. I'm sorry for all those dog lovers out there but after being here for two months, I have come to hate dogs. On the way home that night I almost got bit like five times. They just sit by the main road and wait for us to ride by and run along side our bikes trying to bite our legs. I kicked one away - kind of on accident - but not really. It was my survival instinct.  We got home in 10 minutes mainly because we were going fast trying to get away from dogs and that just made my adrenaline pump like crazy.

Our bikes started to fall apart so the zone leaders took them in and we upgraded to really nice bikes. Apparently, when the zone leaders took the old bikes in to get fixed, the bike repair shop said to just to get rid of them because they were so bad.

Whenever lessons fall through at night, I've been doing practice lessons with members. I teach the whole lesson. It's hard and really frustrating but after I make it through, I'm really grateful I did it. The members give feed back on how I can improve and it really helps.

1 Nephi 8:12  

"And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous‍ that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable‍ above all other fruit."

We all should have that desire to share the gospel after we have received and accepted it. I know of the blessings that come from this gospel and I want everyone else to be able to receive those same blessings. I promise there is no greater joy available than helping someone come unto Christ and receive all of Heavenly Father's promised blessings.

Alofa atu,

Elder Sterner

 This is a large Presbyterian church in our neighborhood. 
The architecture is cool.

Our church buildings have these large outdoor "fales" where classes take place. 
Of course, I'm sitting criss-cross-applesauce!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Hey everyone!

This week was really good. I'm so grateful for all of the people we're teaching and seeing them come unto Christ and make the changes in their lives for the better is so satisfying. One thing I thought about before coming on my mission, and I don't know why, was that everyone in Samoa would have already talked with the missionaries. There aren't that many people here so I figured everyone would have already accepted or rejected the gospel. Man am I wrong. When we ask people on the street if they have met with the missionaries they more often say no then yes. I know that I am either planting the seed or helping it grow. Either way, I know I'm here for a specific reason to teach specific people.

On Wednesday, we went out with our ward mission leader to do some visits.  While we were out, he told my companion and me that he wants us to do an umu. That's when you put the pig in the ground to cook it and everything. He wants us to kill the pig, clean it, take all the intestines and stuff out, then put it in the ground and cook it. One, I don't want to kill a pig and second, I know for a fact I would throw up everywhere taking all the intestines out.  We'll see how this proceeds.

We got about 20 free mangos and 7 free pineapples from member families so we've been eating a lot of fruit. When we don't have fruit its ramen for breakfast and lunch and then hopefully a good fafaga.

I couldn't fall asleep one night because my mosquito bites were pretty itchy. I decided to count them and I have 71 total mosquito bites. The mosquitoes are savage. They bite through socks during visits. The ones on my feet are the worst because my shoe rubs against them and they itch all day. I have gotten really good at just grabbing them with my hand and killing them.

The scripture I want to leave you guys with this week is the scripture I use a lot for spiritual thoughts during lessons. It's 1 Nifae 7:12.

 12: Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things‍ according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith‍ in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.

Have faith and he'll make up the rest!!!

Love you all!

 A typical dinner.  Those are boiled bananas and taro with coconut cream on the left. 
The people are always so giving.

A picture with a member of our ward who is preparing to serve a mission.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hurricane in Samoa...week 6


This week all we got was rain. All day. Everyday. I haven't seen the sun all week. Apparently there was a hurricane that came through on Saturday. It was category three. The worst is six I think. But it was super windy and an umbrella is no help since the rain is coming at us completely sideways. Saturday afternoon we got a call from the zone leaders saying everyone needs to be in their houses. As we got the call, we were hiding under a tiny store 20 minutes from our house. So the walk back was wet and windy. Sometimes the wind was so strong we'd have to stop and get a good footing so it wouldn't blow us over.

We are teaching a lot of people who are interested in the gospel. One is Faleolo. He's 29, married and has two kids. We visited with him last week and invited him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about our message. When we followed up this week he said he did and he received an answer! I was so stoked and it was good to know that people who really do pray and read will receive an answer. He now wants to get baptized. All you have to do is read and pray!

Sina, one of our other investigators had her baby and is doing well. She still hasn't named him yet. We've been telling her Tana (which is how my last name is pronounced here) would be good. We set her baptism for the 12th. She's great.  She even joked about how it's going to be easier for me to do the baptism now that she had the baby.

Matthew is one of my favorite investigators. He's got the biggest smile I've ever seen and he's always smiling. He's 11 years old and loves the church. He comes every Sunday and he really wants to get baptized. He loves the lessons we do with him and he's completed the collection of lesson pamphlets. It was funny, during one of our lessons with him this week, his Dad was sleeping in the fale probably like 20 feet away and he was snoring so loud.  Some Samoans are really good at snoring.

The stores here are just little rooms in the front of houses that don't really sell much. One thing they usually don't have is water. Samoans think cold water is bad for you so whenever we ask for some water, they give us soda...

One thing that makes it hard for us to use our time wisely is that all Samoans are extremely respectful to missionaries. Even if they don't want to listen, they'll still let us in. It's wonderful to visit with them, but it can be frustrating because we could be somewhere else where the people actually want to listen.

We find a dead cockroach in our house everyday. It doesn't really bug me anymore which is kinda bad I guess. And like at home, if I saw a lizard in the house, I'd do everything to get it out. Here, there will be like 4 lizards crawling around and I don't even care.

I'll leave you with a scripture that I really like. It's a revelation Joseph Smith received when he was a prisoner in the Liberty, Missouri jail.  It's D&C Section 122 verse 7-9

 7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

 8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

 9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.

When nothing seems to be going our way and we don't think we can overcome hard trials, it's so comforting to know that Jesus Christ knows exactly what you're feeling. Hold on thy way for God shall be with you forever and ever.

Love you all!

Elder Sterner

Downtown Apia with the Clock Tower in the center.

Here is a picture of the coast.  Just to the right of the tree you
can barely see part of the other main island of Samoa, Savai'i

5th week in Samoa...just posted a couple weeks late!

From Carol & Jeff...we've had major computer issues so we apologize that we are two weeks behind in posting Justin's blogs.  The upside is that there will be three in one weekend!

Hello everyone,

This week was pretty boring....

My companion is sick with bronchitis so we've been stuck at our house the past five days...

The first couple days of the week went well and we committed three people to be baptized in December! One of our investigators is an 18 year old who is really interested.

It was so cool. As we were walking to his house and we sat down, before we started he asked if we wanted a niu (a premature coconut that is filled to the brim of coconut water. Its so good.) and we said of course! So he ran over to this palm tree probably 40 feet high and climbs to the top like it was nothing. He has nothing keeping him from falling either. When he got to the top, you just see two big coconuts falling and make a loud thud. Then he husked them and cut the top off so we could drink them. It was so cool just to see him do that like it was nothing. He's probably been doing it since he could walk.

On Friday we went to the mission office in Apia so my companion could go to the doctor. We were there from 8am-4pm. Luckily there were other missionaries there so I had people to talk to. At the end of the day one of the senior missionaries took us to McDonalds downtown. I felt so gross after eating because I haven't really had unhealthy food for over a month. At the office I was able to weigh myself and I've already lost 15 pounds. The only reason missionaries gain weight in this mission is if they serve in American Samoa. Apparently there, when the members offer to feed the missionaries they usually take them to fast food places and the missionaries just get fat. At least I'm losing weight now just in case I get to serve over there.

Since we had to be inside for 5 days straight, I did a lot of reading but for the first time in my life I actually wanted to read instead of being forced to. Last week I finished the Book of Mormon again. I started when I got here. I read all of Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. I read countless talks and I'm currently reading Jesus the Christ and I'm more than half way done with it. I've gained such a better knowledge of the gospel and about Christ's life.  Now I just have to figure out how to say it in Samoan!!

One thing that really stuck out to me as I had hours upon hours to read and study was faith. Faith can do a lot of things for us. It all really depends on how much faith we have. The blessings and miracles that can happen in our lives depend on the amount of faith we have. As I was reading, one story that stuck out to me was of the woman who was sick and was healed just by touching Jesus's robe. The only reason she was healed just by touching his robe was because she had faith that it could happen. That's one thing that I can definitely work on. I need to have absolute faith that miracles can happen. One of those miracles is being able to speak the Samoan language. And faith alone won't work. Faith without works is dead. I can't just expect to understand the language without working at it. I have to study it constantly and do everything I can to improve day by day. I know that as I put those two things together that the language will come. Not in my time, but in the Lord's time.

I'm learning so much everyday mostly about myself. What my strengths are, what my weaknesses are and how I can work on improving. I love this work and have a testimony that it is 100% the Lord's work, not mine. I'm just the instrument. The Holy Ghost is the real teacher. As long as I have the Holy Ghost with me as I attempt to teach, I know my message will get across how it should.

I love you all and pray for you all daily!


Elder Sterner

Me and my little buddy playing in the street.

Monday, November 16, 2015

4 weeks in Samoa

Preachin' in Paradise

Talofa Lava outou!
 This week was really good. One funny thing that happened was we went over to visit a family in one of the new areas we were assigned to cover. The previous Elders in that area said the whole family wanted to join the church. So we went over and we see this old guy sleeping and right then I had a pretty good feeling either we were at the wrong house or this family with the baptismal date doesn't exist. We started talking to him and it became pretty clear that there is no way this guy is getting baptized. It was funny but frustrating at the same time.

You get no breaks with the weather here. It's either sunny and really hot and humid or it's cloudy and like a sauna it's so humid. When it rains, it pours. Sometimes we can't even hear what people are saying during visits it's so loud. When it rains, the roads get really steamy. The worst is when it clears up and everything is wet. That's when the humidity is through the roof. Walking on the black gravel roads is miserable. I start sweating the second I walk out of the house.

 One thing I love about the people here is that they don't judge people. There will be kids passing the sacrament with no shoes on with a white shirt that probably hasn't been washed in six months and you don't see anyone giving dirty looks. It's just something that I think is awesome about Samoa and the loving people here.

 Another thing I think is interesting here is the cars. They remind me of cars you would customize in like a 2004 Need For Speed video game. They have these massive spoilers, crazy lights all over the place including under the car, and the rims are exotic, plus all the random badging and stuff they put all over the car. I just keep thinking I'm in a Tokyo drift movie or something.

 Most nights there is either volleyball or basketball being played at the church building. For relief society they come and play basketball together. It gets intense. I just picture the relief society in my ward and I just start laughing. They play all night too.
I'm starting to adjust to the food a little bit. Most nights we just get fried chicken and karo. Karo is basically like a potato but it's way better for you. When you see all those massive Polynesians walking around that are just ripped out of their minds, it's because they eat karo. Sometimes they bring out fish that they just fry and you can still see the eyes and stuff. Ramen is another thing that everyone eats. I usually have ramen for lunch every day. Luckily, they have tons of flavors.

 I'm just so grateful to be here as an instrument in the Lord's hands doing HIS work. I know that if I just teach by the spirit it doesn't matter how good or bad my Samoan is. All they need is to feel the spirit and then they'll have that desire to learn more.  I know this is the Lord's work. I can't believe I've already been here for a month. It's gone so fast.

 Alofa ia te outou

 Elder Tana (what we tell people now just to make it easy)

Me and my companion in front of the Chapel

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Week 3 in Samoa...I left home exactly 2 months ago...

This week was super sekia!

 I have my first baptism Saturday and I'm doing the baptism!!!!! Super stoked! We also have two other investigators committed to be baptized on the 28th.
I can't believe I've already been gone for two months.  It's gone extremely fast. I still can't believe I'm actually here getting to share the gospel (the very little I can in Samoan) in such a beautiful place.
I'll just kinda keep doing what I've been doing, running through each day. Hopefully everyone is okay with that.

Tuesday was long. We didn't get back to our house until 9:45 because we finished a lesson late and then had a 30 minute walk in the dark back to our house. During our lesson, I saw my first centipede. It was really freaky and a sibling of the people we were teaching (probably 4 years old) just smashes it with his heel. It was about the size of my whole hand and they are really poisonous but I'm sure he's an experienced killer. Then that night during planning there was a spider the size of my palm and we smashed it with a flipflop and its guts splattered everywhere. It was pretty gross.

Wednesday we had a conference for the entire Island. We talked about how we can better teach the important part of the lessons and how missionaries need to follow the rules better. Our mission president, President Hannamann, announced that he wants to open every island in our mission boundaries including Tokelau which everyone should look up. It's crazy beautiful. That night we gave a blessing to an elderly woman in our ward. I did the first part in English and my companion did the blessing in Samoan. Even though I could understand very little of what he said, the spirit was so strong.  The next night we were walking back to our house and were asked to give a blessing to a sick little baby.
Sunday was really good. For Sacrament meeting it was the primary program. Little Samoan kids sing really loud. They all memorized their parts too, which was impressive. That night during planning, one of the Assisstants to the President called us and said we now cover two more wards which tripled our area. He said that there are a lot of families that want to meet with missionaries so I'm really excited for that.

We pretty much walk everywhere but last night we got a call form the AP saying we're now covering Sale'imoa village (which kinda translates to the chicken hasn't yet come) which has two wards so our area kinda tripled in size.  We're gonna ride bikes now.
Other stuff that I think is really funny is that Samoans can't say Sterner. They look at my nametag and don't even try and just start laughing. I just tell them Stana and they still struggle to say that.

The language is still my biggest struggle and concern. I just need to have faith that I'm here at this exact time, learning this language because the Lord knows I'll do my best work as a missionary here. I'm so blessed to be here and to feel the Spirit constantly. I'm so grateful for its guidance.
I miss you all so much and think about you guys daily.

Elder Sterner

This is my lunch. The pineapple is sooooo good here

This is the rest of our sweet pad!


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Samoa Week 2

This photo doesn't do the water color justice...

Malo Soifua y'all,

This week flew by! I still have very little to no idea what's going on all the time but it's okay. It's been super hot this week and we walk probably 5 miles each day half of it up hill.

Tuesday was extremely hot and we walked the most that day. Almost all of our appointments fell through so we would walk somewhere far and they wouldn't be home. Sometimes when you're setting an appointment with a Samoan, they could say anything and then they won't remember what they said when you show up to their house. Island life is real and I'm still adjusting to it.

Wednesday we contacted a lot of referrals and set appointments. We have a lot of investigators which is awesome. Our goal this week is to set 6 baptismal dates for the month of November. I definitely think it's possible. Here in Samoa, in almost every family there is at least one person who is a member of our church.  Most of the time they are inactive but often times they are very helpful with the lessons.

Thursday was rough. Every lesson we had that day we had to sit cross-legged and it is SO painful. I'm not a flexible person. Each lesson is usually an hour long and my legs are aching within 5 minutes. It's extremely disrespectful in this culture to sit any other way so I just have to tough it out. When the lesson is over I can hardly stand up to give them a handshake. Everyone says it takes like 5 months to get used to it - so yay for me.

Friday we had a zone meeting. That was in Samoan too so I had no idea what was said. Elder Anderson and Elder Redd from my MTC group are in my zone so it was good to see them and know that they're struggling just like I am. Then we had to go to a chapel 25 minutes away and we had to walk because one of our bikes doesn't even have a rim which I was bummed about. I do enjoy walking right next to the ocean watching the waves crash a mile out because of the reef surrounding the island. Saturday was Halloween but Samoans don't celebrate it. They just play volleyball instead. It's what they really love to do.

Sacrament meetings are awesome. Everyone sings so loud. A Samoan woman singing alone sounds ok, but when they sing together, it's amazing. My companion and I are the only ones wearing actual pants and shoes. Everyone else just wears lava-lavas and flip-flops. I'm so jealous.

Samoan kids are the best and they love Palagi missionaries. A funny thing is they don't usually wear pants. They just wear a big t-shirt that hangs low. You don't realize it until they sit down. I was totally shocked the first time it happened but I'm already used to it...ha! ha!

I'm so grateful to be here. It's so hard, by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, but seeing these people make a change of heart is so beyond rewarding. I can't wait to be able to truly connect with these people when I can speak their language. I'm working so hard every day to get better and I'm exhausted after every day.

Alofa ia te latou!!

-Elder Sterner
The main road in our area

our bedroom - pretty tight quarters

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Safe Arrival in Samoa after 29 hours of travel...

Taking a selfie and sweatin' like a champ!  (No, I'm not scared, just focused on the shot)
After a total of 29 long hours of traveling, I have made it to Samoa safe and sound!! If you think you've been in humid weather, come to Samoa. The second we walked off the plane and down the little staircase thing because they don't have terminals, I instantly started sweating. It's so humid but it's good because it cleans out my lungs and all my phlegm and junk.

We arrived around 9pm and the mission president and the AP's were there to pick us up. The Mission President and his wife are so nice. He's a big time surfer from Hawaii so we talked about surfing for a while. We went to the mission home where they talked to us for a bit and then we got to sleep. Where we slept the first couple days is called the MRC (missionary recovery center). It's just a big room of bunk-beds.

The next morning we just kinda went through a big orientation and made sure all our information is up to date. Then I met my companion, Elder Powelson. He's from Arizona and has been out for 14 months. His Samoan is crazy good. We're serving in Upolu which is the main island on the Northwest side. The ward we're in is Faleasi`u Tai. The Bishop and members are so nice. One family even does our laundry for us so I'm gonna have to wait a few months to do laundry out of a barrel. One great thing about serving on the same island where the temple is located is that we get to go once a month which I'm stoked about. That night, we drove to our areas and started being real missionaries. Our house is a little thing behind the chapel. It's tiny.

We went out with the ward missionary to get familiar with the area since we were both new to it. We met with a bunch of members and they gave us a bunch of referrals. I have no idea what's going on during lessons which is a bummer but I totally feel the spirit. I don't know if I'd be able to do it if I couldn't feel the spirit. During lessons, I write down words that I don't know and study them. It's starting to help. Throughout our lessons with investigators the past couple days, we have had three investigators commit to baptism which is awesome. I really hope I get the chance to baptize someone in the ocean!
One thing I love is when we're walking around, the little kids probably around 2 or 3 just sit out in their fales' and will yell "faifeau tala`i" (missionary) and then "fa" (bye) in the cutest little high-pitched voices.  I love that.

During lessons my companion has me bear a simple testimony and say the prayer sometimes. On Sunday I had to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting which was really scary but I did it. All the members had the biggest smiles on their faces because they knew I was brand new and I was speaking the language the best I could.

The fafaga's (dinners) are interesting to say the least. The main thing they eat is Taro which is a plant from the ground that has no taste and the worst texture. Apparently it's super good for you, so I choke it down. They also give us a lot of meats and BBQ which is really good but it's pretty bland. I like spicy stuff so it's gonna be an interesting adjustment. The drinks though are super good. There is this drink called koko Samoa that everyone always gives us and it's so good. I recommend everyone getting their hands on it however possible. They also do the coconut water straight from the coconut that is super refreshing. My favorite though is when they get fresh fruit and make it into juice and it's the best.
I still can't believe I'm here. It's so beautiful. I love you all so much and think and pray for you guys constantly!

 Alofa ia te latou!!

 Elder Sterner
Walking down the highway with the beautiful ocean to the side.

Our sweet pad.  It's right behind the chapel.

Samoan sunrise with the Apia Samoa Temple in the background

A typical Samoan home

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Headed to Samoa

Talofa lava tagata uma!
First of all, a huge thank you to both sets of grandparents, my parents, the Tujagues, and Dominique and family for the AWESOME care packages.  You took such a good care of me while I was in the MTC and I really appreciate it.  You guys are the best.  Everyone in my group enjoyed your treats too.  THANK YOU!!!

Tomorrow I head out for SAMOA!!!! The MTC went so fast and I'm so grateful for the learning opportunities and the great experiences I have had. I'm really gonna miss the MTC a lot. My first week here, we were all saying goodbye to the Fijians and I thought how I wish that was me, I wanna just get out of here already. The Branch President said something that night that I never thought I would understand. He said leaving the MTC is harder than leaving your family. At the time I was like no way. But now that it's my turn to leave and go out in the field, I agree with him. It hit me that I will probably never see 99% of the people I met here. I have become such great friends with so many missionaries it's gonna be really hard to say goodbye. It helps to know I will see my family again in two years.  

This week was a lot of "this is the last time in two years I'll do this." 
Monday we had to memorize these speeches for each time we enter someone's property and home. Before we give them, we put our bags on the ground, put our hands behind our back, and bend over a bit. In the first one we say, "Mr. _ ,we are so sorry for obnoxiously trampling your lawn but we would like to take this opportunity to chat and become familiar with you. If not, we have other visits we have to be at."  
Monday night we just gathered all kinds of American food for the Tongan elder who is coming to Samoa with us to try.  He was hilarious. He loved everything. We gave him pop rocks and the first thing he said was, "Why do you do this to me?!?!" Apparently he talks a lot and does all kinds of stuff in his sleep so traveling with him for three days is definitely gonna be interesting. 

Tuesday morning we were teaching our "investigator" Ane for the last time. During the lesson I realized I forgot something I needed and so I asked if I could run to the class to get and she said yes. So I got it and ran back but when I sat down, I realized I grab the wrong thing and I just put my head down and ran and got the paper I needed. My teacher was cracking up.

After that we had to go to the doctor because Elder Redd had a toenail issue. On the way to the doctor we drove past the BYU baseball field and the team was out there practicing. That made me super homesick but I know my time will come in a couple years.
That night we sang a little farewell thing for us with the whole zone. The spirit was SOO strong. We hardly know what we are singing when we sing in Samoan but we still are able to feel the spirit which is awesome.

Thursday we had in-field orientation. In-field orientation is just role playing basically the whole time from 8:00-5:30. It wasn't as bad as people had said it was but it was still pretty rough. That night we did Skype TRC. The people we taught were so nice and I understood a lot of what they were saying which was really cool. 

That night we said goodbye to our teacher, Uso Kinisone. He was such a good teacher and challenged me to be better. He pushed me just the right amount and I progressed so much because of him. He shared his mission stories and pictures with us that night and it got me so pumped. I am pretty scared though about the centipedes that are on the island. They're like the size of your hand and the bites are really painful. I'm gonna do everything I can to avoid them. I don't know how I'll react when I see one for the first time.

I'm so excited to get out to Samoa but a little nervous at the same time. I know I'll remember these experinces for the rest of my life and I can't wait to share them with you as I go!!
Alofa ia te latou!

 Elder Sterner

Just a note from mom and dad.  Justin arrived in Samoa after about 20 hours on a plane and about that long sitting in airports.  Here he is in Samoa with his Mission President and his wife.  Let the adventure begin!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

One month ago today I reported to the MTC...

Flight Plans.  What happened to October 18th?!

Malo soi fua!! 

First off, shout out to the bro for verbally committing to the Y!!!! So stoked we're gonna get to ball out together in college!

This week was exciting. Getting to watch conference at the MTC was a great experience. I think this was the first conference weekend in my life I watched every session and I loved it. One of the main things I took away from conference is what President Uchtdorf said in the very first talk of conference. He talked about preaching the gospel plainly. I feel like this applies to everyone, not just missionaries. A lot of people have a lot of questions about our church and if we just give them simple answers, it will help them understand what we believe.  I feel like this will be pretty easy for me in Samoa cause I can only say simple sentences and concepts. That's just one thing that stuck out to me and made me think about how I can make it easier for the people I teach to understand the gospel.

On Monday we got our flight plans!! So stoked! We leave Saturday the 17th. Fly to San Francisco then to New Zealand which is an 11 hour flight. During the flight we will have skipped October 18th completely. We have a 10 hour layover in New Zealand.... Then we have a 5 hour flight to Samoa!! I'm a little nervous but I'm so excited. I still can't speak the language but I'm so excited to get there! I've been exploring on google earth the past few days and it's so beautiful. I still can't believe I get to preach the gospel in such a beautiful place for two whole years.

In class the past few days we've been learning about the fa`asamoa (samoan culture). In the Samoan culture, missionaries are considered to be higher in the order of rank than High Chiefs who are in charge of a tribe usually containing 200 people. I think it's cool that we get that much respect but I'm scared if I do something dumb they won't respect me. Another thing about the culture I think is interesting is say my companion and I were riding our bikes to a visit, we can't just pull our water bottles out of our bags. We have to get off our bikes, squat and drink the water. Apparently it's super disrespectful to eat and drink standing. You always have to squat.

Thursday, we had to teach a lesson to a native Samoan over skype. It was really tough. I already struggle enough to understand what someone is telling me in person using hand gestures. The guy we taught was super cool about it though. He totally understood what we were going through. He said his family lives in Samoa and that we have to find them and teach them.

The temple this morning was awesome. I love that I get to feel the spirit there so strong. I know that it is the house of the Lord. The breakfast there is pretty great too. I've about had it with the cafeteria food here in the MTC.

I can't believe I'm out of here in 8 days! It's gone by so fast! 

Fa`afetai lava! Alofa ia te latou!!

Elder Sterner
(Below:  One of the missionaries brought this mini ping pong table set.  We play it every night and the tournaments get pretty competitive and heated.)

Monday, October 5, 2015

week 4

I can't believe it's already been almost a month! It's all gone really fast. I'm learning a lot and I'm starting to realize I know more Samoan than I give myself credit for. I'm starting to feel more and more confident as time goes on but no matter how much I study, I know nothing can prepare me for being in Samoa.

Last Friday we challenged the other Samoan district to a kickball game. Whoever lost had to take the other district's trays for meals in the cafeteria. Of course we won and the other district had to take our trays.

Saturday we had TRC. TRC is when native Samoans who speak Samoan come to the MTC and we teach them a lesson in Samoan. It was really fun because if we couldn't think of a word they would whisper it to us. We taught two lessons and after each one, the person we taught was really helpful. They both said I knew more Samoan than they did when they were in the MTC so that was a big confidence boost for me. They all said just keep working hard and it will come and I believe that to be true. Since this weekend is conference, we don't have TRC but the week after we teach someone over Skype from Samoa.

I'm excited for conference. I looked at the schedule for the next two days and didn't realize how many sessions there are.  It's going to be a nice break from class 24/7 and we'll get to listen to our inspired church leaders. 

Monday we  had a really great opportunity to watch Elder Richard G. Scott's funeral. It was so cool to me that it was more of a celebration than anything else. His wife had passed away 20 years earlier so they were finally reunited. The spirit was so strong listening to all the hymns sung and talks given recognizing his great life.

I had been needing a haircut but didn't want to get one at the barbershop because they just chop your hair off.  There is an Elder in our zone going to Fiji from Australia and he said he is good at cutting hair so I let him do it. He did a really good job and I still have most of my hair.

I wanna end my email with a scripture and my testimony in Samoan.

The scripture is Alma chapter 26 verse 16 and it says,

 "Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel."

I love this when there a rhetorical questions in the scriptures. I like how it says we can't glory too much in the Lord. We can't even begin to comprehend His all-knowing knowledge and the everlasting love He has for each of us individually.

My testimony...

O te fia tu`u atu lo`u molimau. Ou te iloa e moni le talalelei a Iesu Keriso. Ou te iloa `atoa `o ia, `aiga mafai e fa`atasi pea lava. Ou te iloa o Iesu Keriso o lo tatou Togiola. Ou te fa`afetai mo le alofa o lo tatou Tama Fa`alelagi mo Ana fa`amanuiaga ma mo le ata o le fa`aolataga. I le suafa o Iesu Keriso, `amene.

Alofa ia te latou (love towards you all)
Elder Sitana

Friday, September 25, 2015

Week 3 - MTC


I can't believe it's already been almost three weeks. This week went so fast. 

It is getting hard to think of new things to talk about because every day is basically the same. Breakfast then class, lunch then class, then dinner and class with 45 minutes of gym time thrown in.
For gym time I play volleyball. There are a lot of Polynesians in our zone so playing volleyball with them is super fun cause they're really good and they get into it. It sucks we only get 45 minutes a day though.

 In the other Samoan district there is an Elder from Tonga going to Samoa. He only spoke Tongan when he got to the MTC so he had to learn English and Samoan.  To learn the languages, he'll get a Tongan, Samoan, and English  "Preach my Gospel" book, read the Tongan one then the Samoan one and then the English one and will understand it.  It's crazy, we can carry out conversations in English and he understands it. I wish that happened to me.

 The lessons we've been giving in Samoan with no notes to investigators have been getting better. I just have to memorize so much and I know I wouldn't be able to do it without a lot of prayer. The language is very slowly getting better.

I'm excited for General Conference next weekend because that means no class for 11 hours. I'll definitely be able to focus more on what the speakers say and I think it's cool that I'll be in the MTC when it happens.
 I do miss my music. Church music is growing on me but it's still no Royal Blood or Cage the Elephant. 
I heard one group of new missionaries got picked up at the airport in Samoa (they get picked up in a big van) and there were a bunch of huge Samoans listening to NWA in the van - I thought that was funny. I think it would make my transition a little easier to see them having fun and messing around a little bit. 
I found a scripture that describes the food here at the MTC perfectly Jeremiah 4:19 and 20

 19 My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

 20 Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the wholeland is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment. 

After attending the temple we go get breakfast at the cafeteria there.  It's one of the main highlights of my week. 
I just know that if I keep working hard and doing my part the Lord will fill in all the missing parts. I'm so grateful to be where I am but I'm ready for Samoa

Love Elder Sitana

Friday, September 18, 2015

Week 2 -MTC


​28 days to Samoa. Can't wait.
Everyone says the days are long but the weeks go fast and it's true. Every day is the same so they're starting to all mesh into one long day it feels like. It's crazy to think I've already been here for about 10 days. Each day consists of 12 hours of studying the language and other stuff with breaks thrown in every few hours for food and we get 45 minutes for gym time.
The language is very slowly coming along. On Monday, we have to teach a lesson to an "investigator" (our teacher) IN SAMOAN WITH NO NOTES. I'm freaking out because I can't even put a sentence together let alone a 10 minute lesson. So I've been studying like crazy knowing if I do my part to the best of my ability, the Lord will do the rest. 
The first couple days with the language I was struggling and was extremely frustrated.  So one night I just got on my knees and prayed the hardest I've ever prayed that I could understand what's going on in class trying and trying to learn the language. After I finsished the prayer, I felt a calmness come over me and I knew that everything would be okay. That next day in class I understood more than I had the past few days combined and I know it was an answer to my prayers.
We have to do service around the MTC on Tuesdays and Lucky Justin got stuck with cleaning toilets! Safe to say, I dry- heaved a couple times.
One thing I'm learning is to have an eternal perspective. My being frustrated and annoyed with not being able to understand the language is such a small road bump if I think with an eternal perspective. 
At our devotional on Tuesday, for our closing hymn we sang the Army of Helaman song and changed the lyrics from "we will be the Lord's missionaries" to "We are now the Lord's missionaries." It was such a great feeling singing with 2,000 other missionaries and it just gets me more and more excited to get out in the field and serve the people of Samoa. I love and miss everyone and think about you guys all the time.
Love, Elder Sitana (Sterner in Samoan)

Friday, September 11, 2015

week #1

Hey everyone,

      I made it safe and sound and I know I am in the right place at the right time.  I got dropped off at the MTC at 1:45 and a missionary helped me get situated. The first thing I did was get my name tag.  Putting it on was something I had anticipated for a really long time. I feel like a different person with it knowing that I'm a representative of Christ. Then I went to go get all my Samoan books and learning materials, dropped everything off in my room and then went straight to my classroom. I walked in and all the teacher was speaking was Samoan. No English whatsoever. I was completely overwhelmed and was totally lost but at the same time it was super cool just to listen.  I've been here for just three days but I'm starting to understand and recognize what people are saying sometimes.  My companion is Elder Redd. He is from Logan, Utah. Later, we went to a big meeting with all of the new missionaries.  It is so comforting and amazing knowing that there are 2,000 plus people here with the same purpose and goals as me.  As a new missionary something they put on your name tag is an orange dot letting people know you're new.  I took it off within the first couple hours cause I couldn't handle everyone all over the place saying, "Welcome to the MTC!!!" Our Branch (a bunch of districts) is by far the coolest at the MTC. Our district has 10 people in it all learning Samoan. Elders and Sisters in our branch are all going to island missions in the South Pacific speaking either Samoan, Tongan, Marshallese, and Fijian. In the dorms where we sleep there are a ton of Polynesians. Quiet time starts at 10:15 and bed time is at 10:30. From about 10 to 11 all you hear is the Polynesians doing the Haka all over the place. It's cool but at the same time I'm trying to sleep. These past couple days have been so awesome. I love this gospel and the happiness it brings me. I'll write y'all in a week.

Elder Sterner